Job-searching tips for MSW students
I created this resource page for my advisees in our MSW program. BSW students and practicing social workers may find it helpful as well. Several colleagues contributed resources and advice, which I appreciate. If you have corrections or additional recommendations for NC State MSW students, please contact me by email.
When to start
If you’d like to start a new job after our May graduation:
Professional networking can make a huge difference in a job search. September or October is a good time to start networking, but it’s never too late! Having an up-to-date resume will help.
January is a good time to start applying for jobs. A government agency (federal, state, or local) can take a couple of months to fill a position. Also, applying for a current opening can put you on an agency’s radar in case of future openings, and any agency that has found a good fit may be willing to delay a start date.
Valerie Arendt of NASW-NC created this job-searching series for the national New Social Worker Magazine:
- 10 Essential Tips for Your Amazing Social Work Résumé
- Cover Letters for Social Workers: Get Yourself the Interview
- The Social Social Worker: 10 Tools for Successful Networking
- 5 Ways To Ace Your Social Work Job Interview
- 5 Salary Negotiation Strategies for Social Workers
- The Social Work Job Offer: Decline or Accept?
- 9 Tools for Your Professional Social Worker Toolkit
NASW-NC offers plenty of other job-searching and career advice on their website. For example, their one-page BSW Job Search flyer provides tips and search terms that both BSW and MSW students might find useful.
The NC State Career Development Center offers resources such as online job-searching guides, links to job banks, individual appointments, resume review, mock interviews, and workshops for student organizations. They serve current students and recent graduates.
$57 pays for a one-year NASW student membership, which provides access to Career Center resources, a job bank (state and national levels), personalized resume review, salary information, networking opportunities, etc.
Finally, here are a few random tips based on resumes, cover letters, and job-related communication that I’ve received from MSW students:
- In your cover letter, avoid labeling yourself with catch phrases such as “highly organized,” “detail-oriented,” and “self-starter.” Instead, if you want to communicate that you have certain skills or attributes, describe how your work experience or work products demonstrate those skills or attributes.
- Keep your cover letter professional. For example, use a friendly tone, but avoid overly personal self-disclosure.
- Update and thoroughly proofread your resume before submitting it.
- Send your resume as a PDF attachment rather than a Word document or Google Doc.
- If you send a reference list, exclude personal references.
- Be patient. Hiring takes time. It’s okay to follow up at some point to ask about the status of your application, but excessive inquiries won’t help.
Other ways to find out about jobs
Aside from networking, career fairs, and the resources listed above, you might want to consult the following:
- our MSW student email list
- individual agency websites
- facebook networking group for Triangle-area counselors, social workers, MFTs, and psychologists
- job boards
If you plan to pursue LCSW-A licensure
You may want to read the relevant information, prepare your application materials, and request references before graduation so that you can apply immediately after graduation for your provisional license (and to sit for the exam, if you want to do that sooner rather than later).
For further assistance
If you’re my advisee and would like to discuss with me your current interests, job possibilities, and potential networking opportunities, I invite you to contact me by email to make an appointment. Or, feel free to drop by during office hours.